At our test distances of 2m and 10m line of sight and 15m behind two standing walls the 850L delivered 802.11ac speeds of 33.2MBps (265.6Mbps), 29.1MBps (232.8Mbps) and 9.34MBps (74.72Mbps). These are roughly 50 per cent higher than most 802.11n 5GHz speeds and so deliver a very creditable increase. They can’t compete with the elite AC1900 class which more than doubles its peak speeds, but it isn’t meant to. More to the point the 850L triples the performance of the Asus RT-AC52U at close range and comfortably beats it at maximum range.
802.11n 5GHz speeds (graph in the photos tab) are solid as well achieving 22.8MBps (182.4Mbps), 22.3MBps (178.4Mbps) and 6.87MBps (54.96Mbps). These are double the RT-AC52U but, as with its ac performance, the figures do noticeably fade at 15m. This is due to the combination of both fewer antennas and the absence of SmartBeam.
Finally 802.11n 2.4GHz (graph in the photos tab) was no let down hitting 10MBps (80Mbps), 9.59MBps (76.72Mbps) and 2.09MBps (16.72Mbps). Again at range there is a big drop, but the figures remain good overall.
Lastly USB performance, and given the 850L is no powerhouse, its speed of 5.03MBps (40.24Mbps) is decent and certainly usable enough to stream high definition media from an attached drive.
If you want faster-than-wireless n speeds on a budget the answer is a resounding yes. The 850L is the first truly affordable 802.11ac router we’ve seen that can deliver speeds significantly in excess of the best dedicated dual band 802.11n routers and it is far better than the disappointing Asus RT-AC52U.
Against this it is important to remember the 850L is not a substitute for a premium AC1750 or AC1900 router. Performance from the 850L drops off significantly at distance (where these more expensive routers excel) and their peak throughput hits another level entirely.
That said this isn’t where the 850L is aimed. The target is buyers on a budget who would like to benefit from the step up to faster wireless ac speeds and the 850L achieves that admirably. We’re curious to see how the £90 860L performs with its addition of SmartBeam, but for the 850L it is mission accomplished.
Given its ultra-low price tag there are inevitable compromises in the DIR-850L. Performance at range drops off and the lack of status lights means it isn’t the most communicative of routers. D-Link’s admin settings could also do with a spit and polish. That said for just £75 it surpasses all our expectations and represents the true arrival of 802.11ac routers in the 802.11n price bracket. Peak performance is strong, the design is appealing and its value for money is currently unsurpassed.